Coursera – Werbach – Gamification for the Enterprise

Kevin Werbach’s last set of lectures on gamification for the enterprise are flat out fantastic.  By gamification for the enterprise, he means gamification directed at improving organizational effectiveness (rather than customer-focused business objectives like increasing sales, etc.)

His examples are from well-known businesses, and  range across:

  • HR-type onboarding and training processes
  • Knowledge management (WhoWhatWhere at Deloitte – cool!)
  • Incentivizing better customer service in various ways, such as encouraging idea-sharing or gamifying the way individuals learn better practices
  • Increasing systems thinking about use of professional development funds
  • and beyond…

Wow.  Through this course I am realizing how the commercial sector is already integrating gamification into their success in very sophisticated ways.

Over the years, I’ve seen some pretty rudimentary and ham-handed attempts to turn information literacy skills-building lessons into actual games–the gamification class taught me why these didn’t click.  These efforts are not gamification. They were/are infotainment, i.e. an attempt to sugar-coat failed pedagogies.

But back to organizational effectiveness….

Gamification techniques strike me as transformative for internal organizational effectiveness.  Why?

It would be wonderful to have a staff comprised 100% of deeply self-aware people with highly developed motivation to learn from feedback, to solicit criticism of their products, to do the “after action review” for projects that help the organization learn rapidly and broadly.  But that level of self-awareness is pretty difficult to achieve all-day-every-day in real life.  We aren’t all perfect.  And even if many of our colleagues are willing to learn from mistakes, it won’t help if the organization’s culture doesn’t consistently support the kind of openness that fosters learning from mistakes.  Fail early and fail often is a mantra I hear at conferences, but much harder for organizations to foster that culturally.  So, maybe designing our organizations to learn productively using gamification would get us where we want to be a lot faster?

I have thoughts about a “game approach” to help develop project management skills — something that would foster self review by teams and reward feedback loops during projects.  It would be a formative approach, rather than a post mortem that is so dreaded it is often bypassed.

Of course, the examples Werbach draws from business seem somewhat out of reach for academic libraries.  Corporations can fund this kind of organizational effectiveness effort–requiring both design and implementation expertise–with part of their profits.  If you want people to learn before mistakes happen, using gamification to direct staff behavior, you need an informed, articulated program of target behaviors.  Presumably managers could define these targeted behaviors, although I think in actuality many managers would find this harder than expected.

What should we do, how much of our slender operating/innovation funds can be devoted to this kind of organizational re-design?  Among all the risky things libraries need to experiment with in order to adapt, anticipate our users, and offer impactful services, where might gamification for organizational effectiveness fit?

–Karrie Peterson


About Karrie Peterson

Head, Liaison, Instruction & Reference Services
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